3 reasons game 3 is a must-watch

Spotlight on linebacker, left tackle, safety

If you're passing on Friday night's Bears-Giants game, I don't blame you. Summer is evaporating and it makes sense to enjoy these final weekends before the leaves change colors.

For the Bears, however, this glorified scrimmage is the biggest day since training camp opened. And I have three reasons any self-respecting Bears fan needs to set the DVR for it.

1. Life without Brian Urlacher. The secrecy and subsequent firestorm of edgy comments from Urlacher and coach Lovie Smith regarding the middle linebacker's reported trip to Europe for alternative treatment on his left knee confirmed what I already suspected: There is a strong possibility the Bears will open the season against the Colts without Urlacher.

I want to watch Nick Roach, the favorite to replace Urlacher, get off the blocks and make tackles. The company line is Roach is a much smarter, more experienced player than he was in 2009 when he subbed for Urlacher.

We'll see about that. Urlacher's absence three years ago devastated the run defense. The Bears were 23rd against the run while allowing a whopping 375 points.

Without Urlacher (and also Julius Peppers in the first scrimmage) the Bears allowed big chunks of rushing yards on the first series against both the Broncos and Redskins.

2. Final auditions for starting left tackle. Bears coaches have hinted the battle between J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams may not conclude any time soon, but you know they'd like one of the two to take a stranglehold on the position.

Webb made a little progress in last week's game, but offensive coordinator Mike Tice smartly has not been singing the big fella's praises.

The last time the Bears went to New York and faced the Giants' multidimensional pass rush in a real game, Jay Cutler's eggs were scrambled before a national television audience. Jason Pierre-Paul is not expected to play, but that's no reason for the Bears to breathe easier. Giants coach Tom Coughlin treats all football activities like Armageddon and all in uniform will want to make an impression.

Webb and Williams aren't the only linemen under the microscope. Left guard Chris Spencer has not dazzled and last year's first-round pick, right tackle Gabe Carimi, essentially is still a rookie.

3. Musical Bears at safety. It has not become just an annual game, it has been a weekly exercise in "Pop Goes the Safety" for years.

Second-year man Chris Conte is out with a bad shoulder and likely won't be ready until the Colts game. Brandon Hardin is out. One wonders when Major Wright again will be in the tub.

Enter the ensemble cast of Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters, Trevor Coston, Jeremy Jones and Mark LeGree.

LeGree, signed earlier this week, is the most interesting of the bunch. A 5th-round pick by the Seahawks in 2011, he was cut and signed by Arizona. The Cardinals cut him, but he was scooped up by San Francisco. The 49ers released him and he signed with the Jets, who released him after the season. The 49ers rolled dice on LeGree again this season, but parted ways with the former Appalachian State star two weeks ago.

Perish the thought of a guy with so many frequent-flyer miles opening the year as a starter in the Bears' secondary.

Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.

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